Commentary

Tandon's Wimbledon live blog -- Day 1

Originally Published: June 22, 2009
By Kamakshi Tandon | Special to ESPN.com

Need the inside scoop on all the latest news, results and gossip during the 2009 Wimbledon Championships? Our fearless blogger Kamakshi Tandon is on hand to fill you in on all the happenings every day from noon to 3 p.m. ET. Don't hesitate to ask your questions.

3:28 p.m.: A dramatic happening just as I bid you goodbye for today … it's match point for Novak Djokovic, and Julien Benneteau has run into the back wall chasing a ball and looks to be in real pain. He's sitting in a linesman's chair holding his knee, and Novak Djokovic has walked over to check on him.

Just a quick final word that the courts are playing quite fast, which could help the big hitters. I asked Philipp Kohlschreiber whether they were faster than last year, and he said, "a little, little, little faster." Make of that what you will.

Check back tomorrow for the start of Andymonium.

2:52 p.m.: Reaction from Michelle Larcher de Brito, as promised.

The first two questions in the below news conference were actually about the match, which was a bit of a surprise because the tabloids here aren't shy about going for the jugular. (Remember the time Tatiana Golovin walked in and was greeted with, "Excuse me, can I ask you about your knickers?")

But after those initial niceties, it was 90 percent grunting-related. "I tried to be quiet for you guys today," she joked at first, but later said she was just joking.

"I didn't think it was necessary to really go any louder than I was today, I was playing good. ... The grunt goes through my intensity."

So take note: Today's quiet performance was not a change of heart. "We'll just see," she said. "Definitely if the matches are going to be tougher, I'm going to start grunting."

And if she were ever ordered to stop? "Nobody can tell me to stop grunting. Tennis is an individual sport, and I'm an individual player. If they have to fine me, go ahead, because I'd rather get fined than lose a match because I had to stop grunting."

Is the grunting controversy much ado about nothing or a legitimate topic? Send thoughts to courtcoverage@rogers.com.

2:33 p.m.: It's opening day, and the grass is always a bit slippery to begin with. The normally sure-footed players have been taking tumbles all over the place. As mentioned, Severine Bremond Beltrame fell badly and had to retire against Victoria Azarenka. And there were some gasps when Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova took tumbles within seconds of each other on Centre and No. 1 Court, respectively.

Now Julien Benneteau is the latest. He went sprawling while chasing one of Novak Djokovic's shots during the third set of their match and lost the set quite easily. He just tried to get a bit of his own back, sending Djokovic running after a drop shot, but the Serb slid nicely into the shot and kept his balance.

Adidas must be proud. The company has been touting its redesigned grass-court shoes recently, after being embarrassed last year when it was revealed that Djokovic was wearing painted Nikes during Wimbledon.

There have been a lot of injuries on the grass this year. Ivan Ljubicic withdrew today with an ankle injury he suffered at Queen's. Marcos Baghdatis pulled out earlier after hurting his knee last week, Dmitry Tursunov caught his ankle in the Eastbourne final, and Marion Bartoli suffered a leg injury in the semifinals.

2:07 p.m.: And speaking of zingers, here's a good one from Serena Williams on all the new names constantly arriving on tour: "I just know the standard -- everyone is from Russia. Sometimes I think I'm from Russia, too.

My name must be Williamsova."

1:55 p.m.: Speaking of Laura Robson, she had a mixed debut. The 15-year-old has played at the WTA level only once or twice before, but got a wild card here thanks to winning the girls' event last year. The fact that she's British also didn't hurt -- its drought on the women's side has been even deeper than the men's, so the home country is delighted to have a genuine prospect on its hands.

Four and a half million people in the U.K. tuned in for her victory in the girls' final last year, more than the women's final. Even Robson called that "crazy."

Today's match was shown in its entirety on BBC 2, even when both Federer and Sharapova were down a break in their matches. Robson won the first set against Daniela Hantuchova but double-faulted twice to hand over the second set and didn't make it close in the third. But the 15-year-old competed well against an experienced and canny player. She hits a good serve to go with her big forehand and is essentially a good mover (though perhaps slightly affected at the moment by her recent growth spurt). Though it's not always a good thing to be this close to a finished product at such a young age, reaching this level this early at least gives her a good head start.

One of the big X factors is how she'll be affected by all the public attention and endless media coverage that all high-achieving British players have to deal with. But on today's evidence, the kid is going to be just fine. Here are a few of today's zingers, all delivered with a cheeky smile:

    Q: Do you get much time to socialize, or can it be quite hard?

    Robson: I socialize. What do you want me to say, I've got no friends?

    Q: Crowds on Henman Hill were watching your first set. Do you think they can come up with a new name for you, Robson Ridge or something?

    Robson: It's not really a ridge, is it?

    Q: You work with a Dutch coach. How is it to work with him?

    Robson: (with mock glumness) It's OK, you know. Nothing special.

    No, we get along really well. I mean, you have to because you spend so much time with them. And, yeah, he's got a very sarcastic sense of humor.

    1:15: The new No. 2 Court stadium has opened this year, and it was pretty packed, as both the stadium and the British teen sensation made their debut earlier today. So what happens to the court's reputation as the "graveyard"? Does it transfer to the new place, or is it inherited by the old stadium, which is now called Court 3?

    So far, it looks like the latter. James Blake became the first seed of the tournament to fall there today when he lost in straight sets to Andreas Seppi, and then Severine Bremond Beltrame hurt herself and retired at 6-2 down against Victoria Azarenka.

    No word on whether she tripped over her last name.

    12:35 p.m.: Your foolish correspondent assumed that Court 17 was next to Court 18, which is right next to the tournament's media hub (it's the one you see behind the studio hosts on NBC broadcasts). But it turns out to be closer to the other side of the grounds, where a small but expectant crowd had already gathered to await the sound and fury of Michelle Larcher de Brito.

    The scheduling might have been the work of some mischievous soul in the referee's office: Court 17 has particularly good acoustic potential, as it's surrounded on three sides by tall buildings: Centre Court, No. 1 Court and the Wimbledon museum.

    But I'm (disappointed? relieved?) to report that my eardrums are still in perfect working order, because de Brito did not venture past a typical short grunt during the early stages of the match. There was silent surprise in the stands, with TV reporters glumly putting down their microphones and photographers slowing down their rate of picture taking. A guy behind me observed to his friend, "That's not so bad, is it? Sharapova was worse."

    De Brito did give a few of her trademark long squeals toward the end, but the volume was nowhere near French Open levels. Clearly all the sound and fury over the grunting has had an effect. But now that she's shown she can keep it to manageable levels, will there be more of an outcry next time she unleashes the humdinger?

    I'll update you on what she says when she comes in for her news conference.

    Noon ET: Greetings from Wimbledon. For the next two weeks, I'll be blogging live from noon to 3 ET every weekday from SW19, the most famous zip code this side of 90210.

    Weather is always a big part of the tournament, and I'm happy to report that it's been a perfect day for tennis so far: cloudy and mild with only the faintest breeze. The crowds are out in force, eager to drink in the atmosphere and catch some tennis -- any tennis. Well before play began at noon today, Court 18 was already jammed with fans awaiting the not exactly A-list matchup of Feliciano Lopez versus Karol Beck.

    They certainly picked a good one. More than 3½ hours later, the stylish Spaniard (Lopez) and the workmanlike Slovak (Beck) were still going at it. Beck went up a break early in the fifth set but lost his advantage and ultimately had to go into overtime for a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 win. Hopefully, those noonday fans packed lunch.

    But the tournament really kicks off an hour after play officially begins. That's when the men's defending champion walks out to hit the first ball on Centre Court. And with injury keeping Rafael Nadal out of the tournament this year, that honor passed to the 2007 champ, Roger Federer. At precisely 1 p.m. local time, he strode out in long pants and a warm-up jacket that he later described as a "military look," something a "little bit more modern" than the blazer and cardigan of previous years.

    The first walkout on Centre is always a special event, perhaps the "full-bloom" moment of the tennis season. The grass is unscuffed, like a lush, striped carpet that has been carefully vacuumed. There's a hush around the court as the players warm up, soft whispers rippling around the stands as the balls and the players' feet spring silently off the grass.

    Centre Court is sporting a new look this year as well, and people were also curious to get their first glimpse of the roof. Whether traditionalists or modernists, they probably weren't disappointed. It's a cathedral look with a modern twist: White, domed-shaped sections on each side of the stadium fold out and cover the court with a translucent, clothlike roof when it rains.

    Federer, the supreme traditionalist, gave it the seal of approval. "It felt great. It looks good too, I think," he said after a fairly routine opening win against Yen-Hsun Lu. "I've played in different Wimbledon Centre Court stadiums in the past few years now -- ones that didn't have a roof, ones that had a roof. I've been through all of those, but this one felt very much home again."

    Other winners so far today include Maria Sharapova, who came back from two breaks down in the first set to beat Victoria Kutuzova, and Serena Williams, who may finally have trumped Federer in the warm-up outfit stakes with her white trench coat. The first seed to fall was James Blake, who went out in straight sets to Andreas Seppi.

    British teen Laura Robson caused a stir by taking a set off Daniela Hantuchova early this afternoon but eventually fell in three. More on that in a bit, as well the big event taking place right now: Screaming sensation Michelle Larcher de Brito is unleashing her vocals on Court 17 against Klara Zakopalova. It's not far from the press center, so I'm just going to pop out to the balcony to see if she can be heard from here.

    Want to know what's happening around the grounds? Whether it's grunting or groundstrokes, send in your questions at courtcoverage@rogers.com. I'll get to as many as I can -- but no, I don't have any influence on what they're showing on TV.

    5:50 a.m.: Welcome to Day 1. We have a star-studded lineup coming up. Here are Monday's notable matches, with seeds in brackets:

    Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) versus Roger Federer (SUI) [No. 2]

    Neuza Silva (POR) versus Serena Williams (USA) [2]

    Julien Benneteau (FRA) versus Novak Djokovic (SRB) [4]

    Maria Sharapova (RUS) [24] versus Viktoriya Kutuzova (UKR)

    Robin Soderling (SWE) [13] versus Gilles Muller (LUX)

    Fernando Verdasco (ESP) [7] versus James Ward (GBR)

    Keep those e-mails (courtcoverage@rogers.com) coming, as I also will be answering your questions and comments throughout the day.